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“I’ve had a couple of pole positions and couldn’t turn them into a victory. I got a bit of criticism, but you see, even a bad driver can win a race.”

Never one to be short of self-confidence, Ralf Schumacher basked in the glory of his 2003 European Grand Prix, at his local circuit, by firing a sarcastic broadside at his critics in the press. He had just outdriven his older brother Michael and most of the rest of the field (save for Kimi Raikkonen, whose engine blew while leading) to score his fifth career F1 win.

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Chris Grayling has come out fighting this week – he has rebuffed an extensive report by think tank IPPR North published earlier this year that demonstrated a huge gulf in transport funding between London and the North, claiming the funding gap is a “myth”. However, regardless of what he may say, the evidence is stark – more than half of England’s transport spending is in London, with more than double being spent per head than in the North as a whole.

But the North is not a homogeneous whole – the North West still receives a lot more investment than other parts of the North. Arguably the worst-off area is the North East. Despite having one of the UK’s largest urban areas around the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, as well as many other large towns and cities, the total investment in transport in the area is just 1.8% of the overall spending, compared to 54.2% in London alone. This amounts to £220 per head per year – only Yorkshire and the Humber spend less per person (£190 per year).

But what does that look like in real terms? What does that offer the residents of the North East, in terms of the greatest form of public transport of them all – the form that was pioneered between Stockton and Darlington in the 1820s and spread from there throughout the world?

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Apollon: An F1 Minnow’s Tale

Posted: September 9, 2017 in Sport

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Switzerland’s contribution to F1 history has been relatively limited compared to many of its European neighbours. The country that banned motorsport back in 1955 after the Le Mans disaster produced two grand Prix winners in the 1960s and 70s – Jo Siffert and Clay Regazzoni – and later the Sauber team. But it has also had its own F1 failures – first Silvio Moser’s team in 1970-71 running Bellasi cars, and then, in 1977, the Apollon. This is just one story of many attempts in the 1970s at getting a new F1 team off the ground which ultimately proved to be fruitless.

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Formula Two: motorsport’s great misnomer

Posted: September 8, 2017 in Sport

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Motorsport’s governing body the FIA has decided that the best way to deal with the “problem” (if there is one) of getting good quality young drivers into Formula One is to change the Superlicense rules again, to make it “almost compulsory” for drivers to compete in the official feeder series Formula Two (until recently known as GP2) before graduating to F1. The FIA’s vision is for an orderly ladder, replacing what was previously a morass of junior series. They have steadily made it more difficult to obtain the Superlicense, the figurative piece of paper you need to compete in the top series, and are now looking to emphasise their own series further, at the expense of less orthodox routes to the top like IndyCars, endurance racing and the Japanese Super Formula series.

This is a really bad idea – totally reactionary and short-sighted. It’s the motorsport equivalent of Yer Da’s take that they should give the winners of the FA Cup a Champions League spot to make the top teams take it seriously. The reason for this lies in the history of the series, which has been known by various names over the years.

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Hi, as many of you know, I currently work for Northern, the largest train operating company outside London. I saw today that a prominent liberal journalist decided to “crowdsource” ideas for a “Crossrail of the North”, and then drew some lines on a map in paint to link presumably the four or five places in northern England that he’d heard of. It’s horrible and I’m going to try and briefly give some context.

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I’ve been watching and learning about trains and railways from television since I was a toddler. In past articles I’ve discussed the BBC series Making Tracks, which was a big influence, and The Train Now Departing, probably the classiest railway television series ever made. Many more documentaries like these were made, particularly during the 1980s, when railway enthusiasm was still bordering on the mainstream.

Today’s railway programmes don’t reach the major channels, but YouTube is your friend, both for contemporary videos and archive footage. The only problem is you have to cut through hours and hours of videos of people stood on the edge of a platform with a camcorder as Tornado flashes past to get to the real gems. I have a whole playlist of railway videos, ranging from classic British Transport Films from the 1950s and 1960s through to the bang-up-to-date All the Stations series. Here are five must-see documentary-length videos for any enthusiast:

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Things can only get better

Posted: June 9, 2017 in Politics

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Wow, what a night. Well, that showed me…

That was my favourite election night yet – not that there’s a huge amount of competition. I’ve never been more delighted to have been wrong. I’m going to totally drop any sense of impartiality here – I keep getting my objective predictions wrong so what’s the point?

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